Matt Hancock’s strategy to return to work after the resignation sunk

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It was discovered that the organisation’s rules ban sitting MPs from holding the post. TheWest Suffolk MP had accepted an invitation to become the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s special representative on financial innovation and climate change. The appointment was seen as a comeback for Hancock, who resigned in June after images were published of him breaking social distancing rules by kissing aide Gina Coladangelo.

However, the 43-year-old has since learned that sitting MPs are barred from holding the UN position. According to sources, he has received an apology for the confusion.

Mr Hancock said: “I was honoured to be approached by the UN and appointed as Special Representative to the Economic Commission for Africa, to help strengthen markets and bring investment to Africa.

“The UN have written to me to explain that a technical rule has subsequently come to light which states that sitting Members of Parliament cannot also be Special Representatives. Since I am committed to continuing to serve as MP for West Suffolk, this means I cannot take up the position. I look forward to supporting the UN ECA in their mission in whatever way I can in my parliamentary role.”

Mr Hancock’s announcement last week that he had won the unpaid role triggered public messages of congratulations from senior ministers, including his successor as health secretary Sajid Javid, foreign secretary LizTruss, levelling-up secretary Michael Gove, culture secretary Nadine Dorries and foreign office minister James Cleverly.

Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of the ECA, had saluted Mr Hancock’s “global leadership, advocacy reach and in-depth understanding of government processes” and praised his “success on the United Kingdom’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the acceleration of vaccines”.

However, the appointment had been condemned by figures including Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the African Union’s Africa vaccine delivery alliance, who described the move as “tone deaf” and the “definition of a colonial hangover”.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “If Matt Hancock wants to help African countries, he should lobby the PM to back a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines. If he’d done that when in government, tens of millions more people could have been vaccinated.”

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